Posted by on May 10, 2012 in Blog

by Omar Baddar and Omar Tewfik

Today, Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman at Wired released the contents of a recently-terminated DoD training course for senior military officers. The course, entitled “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism,” was terminated late last month by General Martin Dempsey, Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. As expected, the outrageous materials released today show exactly why the course was shut down.

As Ackerman and Shachtman report, the training course taught senior military officers that the West was in an existential war with Islam. The course suggested that the military be ready to take “war to a civilian population wherever necessary,” and be prepared for the “destruction” of “Mecca and Medina,” citing the historic precedents of “Hiroshima [and] Nagasaki.” Army Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley, the course’s instructor, recommends the issuance of the following messages: “the United States has come to accept that radical ‘true Islam’ is both a political and military enemy to free people throughout the world,” and “this barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction.” You’d think it’s hard to miss the irony of teaching bigotry and violence against civilians in the name of fighting bigotry and terrorism, but apparently it’s not hard enough.

There are some parallels here with the problematic contents of FBI training courses, particularly the false accusations that “mainstream” Islam is responsible for terrorism. Those materials, we were told, were purged from the FBI training curriculum. The Arab American Institute issued a statement at the end of March on the FBI materials, calling for transparency, accountability, and a course correction.

Despite how obvious the inappropriateness, indeed destructiveness, of the contents (internally recognized within the FBI and the U.S. military establishment), a small contingent on Capitol Hill is attempting to block any sort of reform on training materials for federal law enforcement agencies and the military. A push is underway, led by Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX), to paint the efforts of cleaning up these programs as mistaken “political correctness” done to appease the Arab American and American Muslim communities. Gohmert went even further yesterday at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on FBI oversight when he combatively grilled Director Robert Mueller, insinuating that the community had somehow dictated what the FBI had purged. “The concern still goes back to who are these subject matter experts,” Gohmert said, referring to the five-person panel responsible for determining the appropriateness of training materials. “There have been people who have had access to you [referring to Mueller] directly like most Americans would not have, who have ties that are certainly questionable,” he continued. Gohmert’s insinuation is, of course, completely baseless. Our community organizations have not even seen all of the materials, let alone been invited into the vetting process.

So who is doing the vetting? We don’t know, but Mueller did inform Gohmert that the names of the individuals would be confidentially shared with some Members of Congress. While Gohmert has the baseless concern of whether these individuals have extremist connections, we are concerned about whether these individuals are more educated and qualified than the people who allowed the bigoted and ridiculous materials into the trainings in the first place.

The damage done by these documents to the thinking of our officers and law enforcement agents, to the Arab American and American Muslim communities, and to our image abroad is immense. If there is anyone who thought until know that the best way to deal with Islamophobia is to ignore it, this should be a wakeup call that conclusively demonstrates the need to be vigilant and speak up against bigotry more forcefully.

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